Speakers Series

Presented by President Philip Steenkamp

Thought-provoking ideas.
Original speakers.
Community events.


Join us to explore the complex challenges facing humanity and innovative ideas about how we might solve them. These are the ideas we need right now, and our speakers will share their most hopeful solutions. These talks are for students, professionals, alumni and concerned citizens. Join us and come away inspired by these changemakers.

Previous Speakers

Dr. Bonnie Henry

Dr. Bonnie Henry was appointed as Provincial Health Officer for the Province of BC in 2018. As BC’s most senior public health official, Dr. Henry is responsible for monitoring the health of all British Columbians and undertaking measures for disease prevention and control and health protection. Most recently, Dr. Henry has led the province’s response on the COVID-19 pandemic and drug overdose emergency. Dr. Henry’s experience in public health, preventative medicine and global pandemics has extended throughout her career.

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Esi Edugyan

Bestselling Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan writes richly imagined and impeccably researched stories that illuminate complicated truths about race and belonging. The first Black woman to win the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Edugyan grew up the child of immigrant Ghanian parents in Calgary, AB. Though it starts as a take on the antebellum novel, Edugyan describes her book Washington Black as having a post-slavery narrative. Washington Black was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and would go on to land the author her second Giller Prize. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

On May 6, 2021, Esi Edugyan joined Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp to discuss her book, Washington Black, her research and the themes within her work.

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John Vaillant

John Vaillant is an author and freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and The Walrus, among others. His first book, The Golden Spruce, was a bestseller and won several awards, including the Governor General’s and Writers’ Trust awards for non-fiction. His second non-fiction book, The Tiger, won the B.C. Achievement Award for Non-Fiction, was a bestseller, and has been published in 16 languages. In 2014 Vaillant won the Windham-Campbell Prize, a global award for non-fiction. In 2015, he published his first work of fiction, The Jaguar’s Children, which was long-listed for the Dublin IMPAC and Kirkus Fiction Prizes, and was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His latest book, Fire Weather, is a #1 national bestseller; it has won the Baillie Gifford Prize (UK). Fire Weather was also a finalist for the National Book Award (US), and the Writers’ Trust Non-fiction Prize. It has been named one of the ten best books of 2023 by The New York Times, among many other prominent publications.

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Dr. Andrea A. Davis

Dr. Andrea A. Davis is Professor of Black Cultures of the Americas in the Department of Humanities at York University in Toronto. Over the more than 20 years of her academic career, she has worked to advance equity, access and justice in post-secondary education, helping to diversify university curricula through the development of new courses and programs and supporting the success of racialized and first-generation students.

A leading scholar in Black Studies in Canada, her widely published interdisciplinary research is rooted in an anti-racism feminist theoretical framework that analyzes questions of race and gender through a focus on the literary and cultural productions of Black women, the location of Caribbean diasporic communities in Canada, and the constructions of Black youth masculinities.

Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General and the first woman to be elected as an Independent Member of Parliament, representing Vancouver Granville.

Jody is an author, a lawyer, an advocate, and a leader among Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. She has written three books: the national #1 bestseller “Indian” In The Cabinet: Speaking Truth To Power, which was a finalist for The Writers’ Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy and Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing; From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada; and True Reconciliation: How To Be A Force For Change.

Watch the highlights

Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon

Thomas Homer-Dixon is Founder and Executive Director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University. Previously, he directed the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto and founded the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation at the University of Waterloo.

Considered a leading expert on the intricate links between nature, technology and society, his current research focuses on threats to global security in the twenty-first century, including economic instability, climate change, and nationalist authoritarianism and how people, organizations and societies can better solve complex problems.

He is the author of several award-winning books, including his most recent, Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril.

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Dr. Suzanne Simard

Dr. Suzanne Simard is a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia and the leader of The Mother Tree Project, which researches forest renewal practices that protect biodiversity against climate change. Dr. Simard’s work has been published widely, with over 170 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Ecology, and Global Biology. She is also co-author of the book Climate Change and Variability. Her latest book, Finding the Mother Tree, brings us into the intimate world of trees, exploring the ways in which trees learn and adapt their behaviors, remember the past, demonstrate agency over the future, and cooperate with a sophistication typically ascribed to humans. Dr. Simard’s research has been communicated broadly through TED Talks and TED Experiences, as well as articles and interviews in The New YorkerNational GeographicThe Globe and MailNPRCNNCBC, and many more.

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Autumn Peltier

Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation and RRU Honorary Degree Recipient, Spring 2022

Autumn Peltier first caught the world’s attention at a 2016 Assembly of First Nations when at age 12 she admonished Prime Minister Trudeau for the choices he made for her people. To this day, she holds him to his promise: “I will protect the water.” While her journey since has taken her to the world stage including the UN, garnering her many prestigious awards and landing her Macleans 2021 Power List Top 50, her path has not been easy. Facing racism and stereotyping, Peltier presses on, inspiring youth and adults alike by modelling how a young First Nations woman can make a difference by being a passionate advocate to a cause like hers to protect water.

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Monique Gray Smith

Monique Gray Smith is a proud mom of teenage twins and an award-winning, best-selling author. Her first published novel, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience won the 2014 Canadian Burt Award for First Nation, Métis and Inuit Literature. Since then, Monique has had 7 books come out that cover a broad spectrum of ages, topics and emotions. Woven into all of Monique’s writing, speaking engagements and online courses is the teaching that Love is Medicine. Monique’s novel, Tilly and the Crazy Eights was longlisted for Canada Reads 2021. She is currently writing the Young Adult Adaptation of Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, with a November 2022 release date. Also coming out in Fall 2022 is a picture book, I Hope with Orca Book Publishers. She is an appointed member of the Board of Directors of Royal Roads University and the Minister’s Advisory Council for Indigenous Women for the Government of BC and an elected Board member for the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.

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Lucy Suchman

Lucy Suchman is Professor Emerita of the Anthropology of Science and Technology at Lancaster University in the UK. Before taking up that post she was a Principal Scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where she spent twenty years as a researcher. The author of Human-Machine Reconfigurations (2007), her current research extends a longstanding critical engagement with the fields of artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction to the domain of contemporary militarism. She is concerned with the question of whose bodies are incorporated into military systems, how and with what consequences for social justice and the possibility for a less violent world. In 2010 she received the ACM SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award and in 2014 the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Bernal Prize for Contributions to the Field. She was President of the Society for Social Studies of Science from 2015-2017.

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Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as a historian. Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a PhD in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs. He is also the recipient of an honourary degree from Royal Roads (2002).

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Changemakers Wanted

Diverse, dynamic and interesting speakers and topics lead to more changemaking conversations.

While the pandemic may have changed our plans, the spirit of the series, bringing exciting speakers to south Vancouver Island and to our community around the world, remains intact.

Who do you think is making change? Send us your thoughts on future speakers to invite to this series.

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